What are the best bets on the final day of Royal Ascot?
It’s been a sensation week so far and we’ve not done yet with six more races to enjoy / bet on. Here are my thoughts on proceedings with suggested bets and best available prices at the time of writing.
2.30: Chesham Stakes, 7f
Given the red-hot form of her trainer Aidan O’Brien and the presence of the irrepressible Ryan Moore (eight winners and counting) on her back, it’s no surprise to see Ballydoyle priced up at around the 2/1 mark for this Listed contest.
There was plenty of hype surrounding the filly when she made her debut at the Curragh (sent off at 5/6) only for her to fluff her lines, falling out of the stalls and then needing time to find her stride. In the end, she picked up the bit in the final two furlongs and finished the race off well into fourth. That was still a promising effort and, given the majority of the stable juveniles have improved for a run, she ought to be a different proposition this afternoon, with the extra furlong likely to suit on breeding. The question for punters is whether to get involved at such a short price.
I’m going to pass up the opportunity and will be having a few quid instead on Wesley Ward’s LOVE THE KITTEN, who looks a shade overpriced at 9/1 (bet365) given her trainer’s Royal Ascot record and stable confidence behind her. She’s been beaten into second on both her starts, once on dirt and the other time on a synthetic surface, but Ward is adamant she will be far better on turf and will appreciate every yard of this trip. He said: “She’s all turf. If you were to visually see her breezes on the grass you would bet on her. I think she wants all the seven-eighths of a mile. I’m looking for a big race from her.” That’ll do for me.
Others to consider are Michael Halford’s Godolphin colt Tonkinese and Eoghan O’Neill’s Maison-Laffitte winner Suits Me in a race that is more open than the betting would have us believe.
3.05: Wolferton Handicap, 1m2f
Is there any point in taking on MAHSOOB, apart from his skinny price tag of just 15/8 (bet365). Probably not. John Gosden’s colt looked like a potential Group horse when landing handicaps at Newbury and York, looking value for more than his narrow winning margins and overcoming wide draws in big fields on each occasion. The handicapper has raised him to 106 which clearly makes life more difficult, but it might not be enough to stop him and even the current 2/1 on offer might look huge after the race.
While he faces 15 rivals here, they are essentially handicappers / Listed class at best, whereas the favourite is surely destined for far better things. His connections must think so as they had him entered for the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes on this same card, and he can kiss goodbye to handicaps in the best possible way by landing a hat-trick for the season at Royal Ascot.
Andrew Balding’s Collaboration is chasing a four-timer here but is now 27lb higher than when his winning spree started, and a bigger danger may be First Flight, who finished third behind the selection at York last time and is entitled to finish with a 5lb pull in the weights.
3.40: Hardwicke Stakes, 1m4f
Telescope was an impressive seven-length winner of this race 12 months ago before going on to chase home Taghrooda in the King George, and he’s no bigger than 5/4 for a repeat. He’ll certainly take some stopping if in the same rich vein of form and was back in the winners’ enclosure last time, albeit after beating seven vastly inferior rivals at odds of 8/13.
But he’s not unbeatable by any means and having been turned over at odds-on on his reappearance, I’m opposing him with the ever-improving POSTPONED. Luca Cumani’s colt ended last season by winning the Group 2 Great Voltigeur over today’s trip and while he’s been beaten in both starts this term, they were over shorter and he was just a neck and a short head behind Al Kazeem when third in a Group 1 last time. Back over his ideal trip and with the sounder surface in his favour, he looks a knocking good bet at bet365’s 10/3.
Telescope’s trainer Sir Michael Stoute also runs last year’s second Hillstar, who is making his seasonal reappearance and may need it, and Snow Sky, who finished well behind the selection in the Great Voltigeur. John Gosden’s Eagle Top is more closely matched with the Cumani’s runner on three-year-old form and he is greatly respected.
4.20: Golden Jubilee, 6f
Revised conditions this year, as three-year-olds are no longer eligible and have been redirected to the brand new Commonwealth Cup. That was the sensible thing to do as that age group have struggled against their elders in more recent times at this meeting.
Southern hemisphere three-year-olds are, however, ineligible for the new race and that explains the presence of Brazen Beau and Wandjina, who are bidding to follow in the footsteps of Australian sprint sensations Choisir (2003) and Black Caviar (2012).Both have solid claims, although they lack the experience of their predecessors and Wandjina’s latest success came over a mile.
I therefore prefer the chances of last year’s Jersey Stakes winner MUSTAJEEB, (11/2 Hills) who was seen to excellent effect when dropped back to this trip on his reappearance at the Curragh, when accounting for eight race-fit rivals, including four Group 1 winners. The fact he stays further (the Jersey is over 7f) is in his favour as this race will be run at end-to-end gallop and, as we saw from Muhaarar in Friday’s Commonwealth Cup, a good helping of speed and stamina can be a dangerous combination.
Due Diligence finished a good second in this race last year and while he was well beaten on his reappearance, he wouldn’t be the first Ballydoyle runner at this meeting to step up considerably on what they’ve shown this term. He’s respected along with Undrafted, who represents Wesley Ward, and Music Master, who had an excuse when running below-par last time.
5.00: Wokingham Handicap, 6f
I make no apologies for having a couple of stabs at this annual cavalry charge, which looks as impossible as ever to solve.
Roger Charlton’s HUNTSMANS CLOSE has been on my radar for this since getting beat a short head into second (of 22) at Newmarket on his reappearance. That was a cracking effort when you consider he had to come widest from off the leaders and was running off a 7lb higher mark than winning the Ayr Silver Cup last September. The handicapper has put him up another 4lb, but that’s a good job as he wouldn’t have made it into this race, and his shrewd trainer, who sent out Time Test to score here on Wednesday and so nearly doubled up with Temptress in the Hunt Cup, may well conjure a little more improvement out of him. William Buick rides and he can decide which side he wants to go from stall 17 (of 28). He can be backed at 12/1, but I’d rather take Paddy Power’s 11/1 as they are offering six places.
The other one to back and at bigger odds is Ed Dunlop’s ZARWAAN at 16/1, again with Paddy Power. A winner over 6f as a juvenile, he has been campaigned over further since and ran second to Chatez in last season’s Silver Bowl (7f) at Haydock, before finishing fifth in the Royal Hunt Cup (1m) at last year’s royal meeting. He’s run well on both his starts this term, including when finishing seventh (of 26) in the 7f Victoria Cup here, when he possibly sat a bit too close to the pace, and looks the type to excel in a fast-run, big-field handicap like this one. Paul Hanagan will jump out of stall six on him and the far side has been the place to be in big fields over the straight course this week.
If I could back just one other it would David O’Meara’s Watchable, who has been running with credit in Group 3s this term, including a fifth to Goldream in the Palace House Stakes, and is another who will be suited by a fast-run 6f. Plus, don’t rule out a big run from French raider Robert Le Diable, who was a fast-finishing second to Mecca’s Angel two starts back and was just caught on the line over 7f last time.
You can’t back them all but a speculative combination forecast covering the four horses I’ve mentioned (24 bets in total) would be some way to end the meeting if successful.
5.35: Queen Alexandra Stakes, 2m6f
Willie Mullins’ Wicklow Brave has won twice on the flat since winning the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and is no bigger than 11/8 to win the royal meeting’s traditional ‘getting out stakes’. Partnered by Ryan Moore, who steered the same stable’s Clondaw Warrior to success in the Ascot Stakes, he will do for many punters, especially as Mullins has won two of the last three runnings with similar types.
However, with the suspicion that the ground will be faster than ideal, I’m going to take a chance on Mark Johnston’s ORIENTAL FOX. He has been off the track for a year, but has gone well fresh in the past, can boast some useful form, including when running very well in the Gold Cup here, and has likely been trained specifically for the race. At 9/1 with Betfred, he looks a solid each-way alternative to the favourite.
John Gosden’s Marzocco, third in the Queen’s Vase last year and seen recently leading his stablemate and Derby runner-up Jack Hobbs at Epsom’s Breakfast With The Stars, is another to consider, along with Andrew Balding’s Rawaki, who promises to stay this far.
Nap of the day: Mustajeeb
Best each-way bet: Huntsmans Close